They say that the road to World Series 2011, must pass through either San Francisco or Philadelphia. I see a lot of contenders for that opportunity, including the three ring circus going on in the NL Central Division. The series between the Giants and Phollies, which began last night, won by Philly 3-0, would seem to offer a preview of upcoming attractions.
That is not to say that the G-Men are a cinch to clinch. Last night, facing Cliff Lee, who has never lost to the Giants in the regular season (4-0), there never seemed to be much of a struggle. Madison Bungarner's rocky beginning to the game, seemed to indicate a repeat of his last start. If the team felt just a hint of that, then maybe we can use that as an explanation for the silent bats.
Or maybe we can just give Lee his due. In saying that Timmy and/or Matt are great pitchers, we must acknowledge that the Phollies have their own brand of great pitchers. These Philly pitchers are not only excellent at their trade, they have a huge chip on their collective shoulders. They have something to prove to the baseball world, and it starts with their own disappointment last October.
Having taken the prize only a few seasons back, with the same core of veterans, this group has the same element of confidence and swagger that the Giants do.
That brings us to the mild controversy which seems to surround Uncle Charlie. That would be Charlie Manuel, the manager of the Phollies. Having inserted his foot firmly in his mouth last week by saying that Matt and Timmy were only good pitchers, not great ones, he was backtracking yesterday before the game.
I don't blame him. In fact, I didn't really mind the original statement that much, though maybe I have referred to it a few times. I think poor Charlie got taken slightly out of context, because the old-school guy would never be dumb enough to dis on such a key tandem, not to mention their twenty-three closest buds.
So give Philly its due. Last night was a good, old-fashioned, National League game. Who can explain back to back blasts in the second inning, when the rest of the game seemed so placid? Who can explain the ending of the Phollies' first inning? Well, I can do that.
With no one out, Rollins tried to steal third base, and was nailed at third. I thought he was safe, and Kruk and Kuip agreed. That's baseball. However, Rollins broke a cardinal rule about making the first out at third base. You just don't do it. On the next pitch Ryan Howard blistered a liner at the Panda, who flipped the ball to Cabrera for a double play that wasn't even close. Done and done.
If the road to World Series 2011 must pass through Philly or San Francisco, then the Giants hitters had better don their Cal Trans uniforms, and help pave the way. 'Cause great pitching can't do it by itself. If you don't believe me, just ask the Phollies.